Monday, November 1, 2010

Raising Awareness

1 Corinthians 16:13-14 "Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong. Let all that you do be done in love." (ESV)

I came across this verse in a personal devotion I was doing last week and it truly convicted me how none of this seemingly simple command is actually carried out anymore, especially down to the first two words - be watchful. How often do we even consider that Christ could return at any day - any moment? Just having this mindset would change a great deal of what we do in our day to day lives. Think about it - there's that job you've always wanted to pursue, but never have time; the ministry you either wanted to start or aid, but held back because of fear, timing, too busy, and so on; there's that one person that's weighed on your heart that you intend to reach out to, but just haven't had the time. How differently would you treat all of these situations if you were truly preparing for Christ's return as if it were this year? How much more would you accomplish? I know I always go about life thinking that I have a whole lifetime before me to accomplish what I need, so things are constantly getting put off another day. But this is a fact, with God's help, that I want to change.

But the second phrase alone is a shocker! "Stand firm in the faith". So many Christians today, or so they call themselves, will claim the basic belief, but their lifestyle would show little to nothing of it. Now, I'm not saying that I have it all together (cause I know I surely don't!) or that we're called to perfection, but that there ought to be some element of effort seen in the person to try to live their life in response to God's commands and an active awareness of the fact. Everyday we're thwarted with potential to do both right and wrong in every situation we're led to, but which of the two more often prevails? Sin. It's in our inherit nature to sin. It's what we're driven to do constantly. We stand firm in our faith when we actively choose to be the leader, set the higher standard, and let God drive our life wholly, not just in one or two areas or claiming our Sunday mornings alone.

All of standing firm ties into how to act like men. Being a man today seems to have a much broader meaning than it used to, but it is rare to find someone who exemplifies the biblical standard of true manhood. In those times, the man was a true leader, commander in chief of his household. He was was a businessman, accountant, family man, warrior, farmer, occasional lyricist, and husband all rolled into one. He understood what it meant to step up and take responsibility and be strong for the sake of his household. So I encourage all you guys out there - don't be afraid to appear different from everyone else and stand for something. Take the initiative and don't compare yourself to the rest of the world. Set yourself against God's standards as they're the only ones that count.

The most important thing in this verse that is also the hardest for us all to do is to do all in love.. How often are we given an assignment and, rather than rejoicing at being entrusted with the responsibility, we grumble that it gets in the way of our leisure time? I struggle with this a great deal, as any reprimand or reminder for me to do something usually aggravates me more than it does convict me of either my faults or duties as an adult to myself, family, and/or preparations for my future family (hypothetically). It's a completely self-oriented culture that we live in where we're persistently thwarted with messages telling us that if we have this new item, go on this trip, look this much better, that we'll be happy at last. But have you ever stopped yourself in the middle of working for others to think how much good it's doing for yourself as well, at least emotionally? I know no similar joy as when I happily for work for someone else's benefit, though I all too often forget this feeling when I stop and consider doing something charitable. The basic thing I want to convey here is that there's a high lack of doing things sheerly out of love for the other person and not being concerned with what an inconvenience it is to ourselves, even if it means talking to that one annoying person or helping someone out at work even though it's time for you to go home. These were just some thoughts that had been weighing on me. Please feel free to respond and respectfully criticize, cause I love feedback. :) I'm only tagging a few people who I know regularly read my notes.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Opening the Door Again

God meets us at the end of our comfort zone. But what I’ve been learning is that God takes control when you’re at the end of your rope.

As many, if not all, of you are aware, I’m a passionate and playful person. I adore doing whatever I can to get together with my close friends and bend over backwards to make it happen. What I’ve been realizing lately is that I do the right things, but for the wrong reasons and for the wrong audience. How much different would my life be if it were fully surrendered to the one who granted me life in the first place?

Consider your own life: how much of your daily activity fits in with your God-given purpose? Better yet, are the goals you’ve set for your life truly evident of being yielded to God’s commands or are they self-selected and self-driven? Or, for a grayer area, have you set a goal that’s only rationalized to seem like it’s willed by God?

For years I’ve thought I was doing what I should by just going through with meeting the basic goals of your ‘typical’ 20 year old: nice car, popularity, decent job, good education, etc. While all of these are great things to own or achieve, they’re horrible when worked for in the wrong mindset. Why did I do so, you ask? Parents, peers, society – you name it! Not because I’ve been conscious that these are things God would want in my life. Over the past few weeks, I’ve been made acutely aware that my life could be so much more fulfilling and productive if I were to live it fully for God, not just in part.

To elaborate, I was walking the Walnut Street bridge earlier yesterday, reflecting on this concept when suddenly I began to picture what my life would be like – all the way down to my very thought processes! – if I let God take the reins of my existence. Was what I was doing with my time truly valuable? Did it fit in or progress me at all towards my God-willed purpose in life? This moment only took a split second, but it seemed as though all the fluff of my life flashed before me and I’d been blind to it all. Granted, my parents remind me frequently of these things as good parents ought, but it’s always a matter of my letting Him break my heart for only Him to mend. Don’t misinterpret this, though, because I respect my parents infinitely! But subconsciously I’m so stubborn, I’ll physically listen and obey, but the change of heart won’t be there, even if I think it is. Take my word for it, though, it’ll come back out when it’s not real. So here’s the struggle that is hard for me still to think of doing, but I want to: fully giving up myself to Him.

One person described this process really well for me, taken from “When God Writes Your Love Story” by Eric and Leslie Ludy. To summarize, Eric portrayed the whole of his life as being a ship that he captained, with a multitude of rooms beneath the deck. He finally surrendered the helm to God to steer where He would, but Eric wanted to keep the rooms beneath private for his own personal use. But God refused to allow this and would clank loudly at each door to every tiny superficial pleasure Eric had, wanting to take over to show him the many wonders He could offer instead – which He did in full.

Coincidentally, the RUF meeting this week was on letting God take control and how we can trust Him to do so in all situations. I was really happy about this, because it pointed me right back to the Scriptures I wanted to reference in light of this whole topic. The first of which was Philippians 2:12-13 “Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.” I’m going to end this with a passage from Romans 8, as it is encouraging for me in my struggle to let go that I would ask prayers for fervently as it’s not an easy thing in the least. Romans 8: 26-32 “Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified. What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?”

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Fulfillment and the Grace of God Through Temptations

As many of you know, I've been internally struggling with a lot of issues lately. I've felt pulled in a million different directions, but have avoided taking taking time to sit down and focus honestly because I'm afraid to see my true self in the presence of God. So, I wanted to explain in detail some of my struggles and what God has done for me through them...and is still teaching me daily.

At the center of all this is my search for independence. Everyone my age wants this in some way, shape, or form as soon as they turn 18. We'll all say that we want to to move out and be free to make our own decisions and, granted, that truly is part of it. But deep down, we jsut don't want to be told what to do anymore. Our parents have rules laid out and, when enforced or reminded, all we desire, then, is to do the exact opposite because "we're adults now and can decide for ourselves." So, we get a fast job and apartment or move into a dorm at college so as to separate from the orders...only to find the massive onset of bills, the manager person that seems to be the most finicky, demanding person on earth, the professor that assigns all too much homework (and really just doesn't like you), and the RA/Landlord that's always checking in to make sure your belongings are in order! The bottom line is, the 'freedom' we keep vying for is to just do whatever our little hearts please, thinking we already have all the answers. The truth is, we never will. 1 Corinthians 8:2 says that, "If anyone imagines he knows something, he does not yet know as he ought to know."

The other issue for me lately has been weakness in the face of temptation. I've never been exceptionally strong in that area, but I've fancied myself to be all too often. And usually as soon as I do, I fall flat on my face. I know it's not an excuse, but the hardest thing for me is that I'm a people pleaser, and to the exceptionally high extremes, and I'll admit, it's because I fail to see the sufficiency of God in my life. He loves me more than any human could in reality, but I constantly fail to see this...I bend over backwards constantly to be the person I think people want me to be, only for the sake of approval and false popularity. Not to say that I've lied to anyone (far from it), but that I tend to stay quiet about things I know we wouldn't agree on and so forth. To put it bluntly, I need to make major changes to find my fulfillment in God and not the approval of others. It was in light of this that I cut down on my friends list a great deal to aid with this separation. 1 Corinthians 10:13 reminds me that, "No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man, God is faithful and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation, he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it."

So, in all of this, I stand before God and the world a wretched sinner. I'm a liar, user, player, rebel, cheat, sloth, glutton, hater, violator - you name it. I've done all, whether intentionally or not, o only in my mind. But for all I've done, I've repented and am continually confessing my faults to my Lord and Savior, the One who took all of this and more upon Himself to spare me the punishment that a lowly worm as I fully deserve, but have been forgiven of.

"So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others, I myself should be disqualified." 1 Cor. 9:16

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Honoring God in Both Word and Deed

Our conversations and actions are the most telling of who we are and what we are about; and if they are not God-honoring, then how are we, as a whole, able to honor God properly? Topics and questions that are out of line can lead to and are often based in immoral thoughts and intentions. It seems that people of my generation are obsessed with the question, "How far have you been?" While it wouldn't be surprising to hear this question from someone who does not know Christ, it is disconcerting to have brothers and sisters in Christ discussing their sex lives both in private and group settings on a fairly regular basis. Unfortunately, for us ladies, if a guy is asking us this, it may be because part of him (no matter how small) is considering "how far" he can push you, if not consciously. If he or she is not your spouse (or fiancee), it is not a question to be asked or answered. Let me explain further.

Philippians 4:8 states, “Finally brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” Ephesians 5:4 says, “Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving.” Thanksgiving. Think about it, how many times do we complain that something isn’t right in our lives a day, or even the fact that we just don’t like something God has granted us? More problematic than that, I, for one, am very guilty of slipping into conversations filled with gossip, hate, complaints, or in particular immoral talk, and God’s really been showing me this lately. Ideally, one thing I’d like to start in order to remedy my complaining is every time I’m tempted to complain, think of something different for which I'm thankful forl. Proverbs 22:11 says that “He who loves purity of heart, and whose speech is gracious, will have the king as his friend.” Who better to have as a friend than God? He is truer than any brother and is truly the most ready helper than any human could be. More especially, Ephesians 5:3 states, “But sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints.” We are called to be saints among men and, granted, we are made such by Christ’s redeeming blood, but that does not excuse or give us Christian liberty to talk of such things. The Proverbs 31 woman honors her husband ALL the days of her life (this includes before she is actually married), and to be revealing things about her personal business openly is disclosing exceptionally private facts and not honoring to her husband (future or present) or to God. ( Proverbs 31:12, “She does him good, and not harm, all the days of her life.”)

So what can be done to prevent it happening again in the future? The primary ingredient is true repentance of it all, with the understanding of how/why it is wrong, dishonoring to God, and harmful to our own witness of Him. Galatians 5:16 says, “But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh." So, if we are gratifying the flesh, then we are not walking by the Spirit. If we want to honor God with our conversations, we need to spend time with Him and in His Word and in prayer. Psalms 119:11 says, "I have stored up your Word in my heart, that I might not sin against you." Memorizing Scripture is a wonderful tool to help conform us to God's image. Finding myself tempted in these areas, I hope to memorize my own personal "fighter verses" to combat these sins.

One way to avoid such conversations would be to dismiss them when they come up and deem them as unacceptable. It’s private business and should not be revealed to just anyone, nor is it right to ask details of others’ sexual lives. It is possible to just leave a question well alone and there is no pressure to answer one when posed. No one can make you answer; they can make a situation unpleasant or uncomfortable, but that is all. Put more simply as I usually say, it's only awkward if you make it so. ;) For further protection from these things in the future, it would be best to monitor how much time is spent with people who have these things as a regular part of their lifestyle/conversation and do not understand its gravity. I Corinthians 15:33 tells us not to be deceived because "bad company ruins good morals." Too much association with sin will cause us to stumble.

So, why did I tag you? Is it because I think you're a filthy minded potty mouth? No, I need two things from you: prayer and accountability. Keeping one's self pure is a difficult business and it's a constant battle for most of us. So I'm asking that you hold me in prayer and help keep me accountable.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

New Persectives

In the course of the past year, there have been multiple issues that have presented themselves to me that have challenged me, particularly those of maturity (in work and elsewhere) and what the concept of love fully entails. I've touched on this subject before in previous notes, but it never ceases in changing in shape and color. For myself as a young woman entering her twenties, I am daily faced with the choice of entering into one of two worlds. The first offers a life of leisure and little care - one of slacking off responsibilities to party hearty and to only work towards the next paycheck or test grade. The second option is to spend my time cultivating myself as much in my walk with the Lord as He allows in and through these responsibilities in addition to daily striving to positively influence those around me. Personally, I've already chosen the latter option, but it is a huge challenge. With the pressures of media and peers pushing me to do what I feel, it's hard to stick to my guns and not give up working towards a better life. But more importantly, things can be too accommodating in such an advanced society as we live in. Have you ever thought about how things would be if we had nothing to rely on but God? We already do, in a sense, but I'm meaning in scratching the influences of family, peers, and so on. What more would we do if we lived for God and the furtherance of His kingdom alone rather than just seeking to fulfill the minimum of what's required of us? A lot of it boils down to just learning to think on your own and act on what you should already be doing without having others to tell you what's needed.

The concept of love tends to be much more vague, as it is so easily misconstrued as a crush or rationalized/overused in such a way that it lessens its value. The song "Chasing Cars" has lyrics that express how often and too little the words 'I love you' have lost their depth in the phrase, "Those three words are said too much, they're not enough." I know that it's hard for me as it is for everyone else not to jump into something without thinking, as we all just want to find that person that values us for who we are that we can care for in return, resulting in a hasty relationship with the first likely candidate. Even if it is the right person, not waiting on God's timing will still cause problems in the end. A huge issue is that it is said without really knowing what's meant by it. To truly love someone and say so, not only would you need to know the person fully, but it also means that no matter how circumstances or the personal character in you or the other person change, whether in fault or no, you'll still be there to support and care for them. It means a willingness to give of yourself, often times sacrificing your own comfort for the sake of the other person's happiness, or doing whatever is realistically in your capabilities to contribute to a better life for the other, be it friend, lover, spouse, family member, or, most importantly, foe. And Who better to consider as a perfect example of this kind of love than our Savior? He is the Son of God, our Creator, Ruler of the universe, One Whom we personally crucified in our sin, but yet conquered death for our sake and still continues to daily intercede for us, relates to our pain and suffering, and loves and protects us, though we've done absolutely nothing to deserve it. Josh Bales' song "Your Love Holds On" better describes it:

There are reasons you could leave me
Oh a million or so
So why you stay here, why you do this
I really don't know
I'm not handsome, I'm not special
I'm just an ordinary guy
I lose my car keys, I'm always moody
So tell me why

You love me
When I'm anything but lovely
When no one else would want me
Your love holds on

What did you know from the beginning
All the wretched things I'd done
That underneath my silver armor
I was hiding who I was
So you'd be blameless if you left me
And I would have to understand
What don't you see now this is crazy
You could find a better man

You love me
When I'm anything but lovely
When no one else would want me
Your love holds on

In the middle of the night you love me
First thing in the morning
When I'm fast asleep and helpless
You don't love me any less
I'm less than a man ever should be
And all the odds are against me
You love me
You love me
You love me

Like a River

Have you ever just sat and watched a river? It's very self-reflective when you think about it. When still, it shows exactly what's around with almost succinct clarity. It's peaceful, beautiful, and the very image of refreshment. But all that's needed is a boat or a storm to rock its waters and send waves rippling, but yet that doesn't change the fact that it's a river - clear and unbroken. Think about it! When we are still and find peace in our lives, we can most clearly discern God's will, best do His bidding, and thus portray the image of Whom we were created in. Everything seems to fall into place from that moment and float on. But let a calamity or a drastic change strike and it rocks our stability, makes us question our direction, weakens our faith, and yet never changes who God made us to be and the beauty remaining in His creation, with the promise of it being being restored in full soon.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010


It's struck me recently how the value of thought in this upcoming generation has digressed rapidly. We're constantly thwarted with the advertisements encouraging us to relax, take the easy way out, let someone else do it for you, and only worry about what you want, not the needs or desires of others around you. But is this what God really intended for us? I think not.

I've recently been reading the Harris' book "Do Hard Things" and it's been exceptionally enlightening on this subject. I was talking to a friend recently about a girl that he liked and heard out his reasons for liking her. After hearing him out, I encouraged him to consider what he needed in a future wife and if she would fit that before trying to take the next step with her. He told me that he just wanted a Christian wife, plain and simple."I'm only 17! I don't have to worry about that stuff yet."

In the Harris' book, they argue that age isn't an excuse. The concept of the teenager/adolescence wasn't even around till the early 20th century and that people went from child to adult with no awkward stage in between. Granted, there was still learning to be had in the process, but the expectations were what made the difference.

The quote from the boy above reflects what culture has taught us today: that we as teenagers aren't expected to think about the future or work towards our goals yet, so why should we? Just because we're not in a position for getting that dream job yet, does not mean that we can't make steps towards it. There are always opportunities that God gives us every single day to grow, but putting off that opportunity for another day when we're older isn't an excuse. Make that day today, do hard things, and go above and beyond the expectations of those around you.